Russia kicks out dozens of French, Spanish diplomats as relations continue to sour

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Russia ordered dozens of French diplomats to leave the country Wednesday as relations between Russia and the West continue to deteriorate.

Russia’s move targeted 34 French diplomats, as well as 27 from Spain, according to Russian Foreign Ministry statements. Both France and Spain took similar actions to expel Russian diplomats from their own countries in recent weeks. The Spanish diplomats must leave Russian soil within a week, while the French were granted two weeks.

France expelled six Russian citizens it said were operating as spies under a diplomatic cover in early April.

UK SHORES UP DEFENSIVE ALLIANCE WITH SWEDEN, FINLAND AS COUNTRIES FLOAT NATO MEMBERSHIP

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law legislation that could punish journalists with up to 15 years in prison for reporting so-called “fake” news about his military invasion of Ukraine.       
(Yuri Kochetkov/Pool)

The Kremlin’s retaliation comes as tensions between Russia and the West continue to escalate. Sweden and Finland filed a joint request to join NATO on Tuesday, despite their tradition of neutrality.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime had previously stated that such a move could warrant the deployment of nuclear and hypersonic weapons to the Finnish border. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brushed aside the development in a Tuesday statement, however, saying it will not make “much difference.”

“Finland and Sweden, as well as other neutral countries, have been participating in NATO military exercises for many years,” Lavrov said Tuesday.

“NATO takes their territory into account when planning military advances to the East. So in this sense there is probably not much difference. Let’s see how their territory is used in practice in the North Atlantic alliance,” he added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov looks on as he gives an annual press conference on Russian diplomacy in 2021, in Moscow on Jan. 14, 2022.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov looks on as he gives an annual press conference on Russian diplomacy in 2021, in Moscow on Jan. 14, 2022.
(DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)

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Lavrov’s statement was a stark departure from Russia’s previous stance on NATO expansion. Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, argued in April that such a move would justify Russia deploying nuclear and hypersonic weapons to its Western border with Finland.

“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored,” he said at the time. “Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to. If our hand is forced, well … take note it was not us who proposed this.”

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